Brilliant Teacher Creates DIY “Sensory Chairs” for Kids with Special Needs

They say that heroes walk among us; and it looks like the staff and students at Raymond Ellis Elementary School in Round Lake Beach, Illinois are counting their lucky stars to be able to know one such hero. She goes by the name of Miss Maplethorpe, and she recently lit up the Internet with her marvelous solution to a very tricky problem.

Miss Maplethorpe is a teacher in the Speech and Language department, where she works with kids who have a range of disorders from Autism to Down syndrome. Some of these disorders mean that kids experience sensory issues, which can disrupt their opportunity to learn.

Using common materials, Maplethorpe took standard classroom chairs and covered them with brightly-colored fabric and then — the genius part — she cut tennis balls in half and adhered them to the seats, creating her own DIY “sensory chairs.” Check it out here:

In the school’s now-viral Facebook post that describes the invention, staff explain what sensory seating is and why it’s so important. The caption explains:

“Sensory seating is used for students who may have difficulty processing information from their senses and from the world around them. Tennis balls on the seat and backrest provide an alternative texture to improve sensory regulation. Students with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, sensory processing disorder, etc. may benefit from this seating option.”

The post goes on to give detailed instructions for other teachers or parents to recreate the chairs.

Parents and friends of the school were quick to chime in with supportive feedback. One woman wrote, “I’m in Tyler, Texas and found this post in my news feed. This teacher needs to go right now and get a Utility and Design Patent [and] then go to Shark Tank. Lol This is BRILLIANT!” To date, her comment has received 10,999 likes from other Facebook users.

Another person commented:

“Thinking out of the box with sensory student’s is a wise idea. It’s all trial and error. They all have different needs and likes. We had a student who loved to sit on a water fill pad. No one made them till I found a way too make one. Good Job. A sign of a great specials needs teacher. After 25 yrs. of working with these student’s it’s nice to see others sensitive to their needs.”

What’s especially moving about Miss Maplethorpe’s post is not just the clever use of tennis balls to solve a serious classroom problem for her kids, but that she had a heart big enough to look for an innovative solution that would give her kids a comfortable and safe place to learn. And sure, this won’t be a catch-all answer for every kid in her class, but the spirit and energy behind the gesture is huge and is capturing the attention and adoration of parents and teachers everywhere.

Thank goodness for teachers like Miss Maplethorpe, who understand that special needs children are a gift to the world and that we need to do more to support their opportunity for an equal education.

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